A simple tap in Fiji opens many doors for Bhullar

V Krishnaswamy Nadi | Updated on August 05, 2018 Published on August 05, 2018

Ace The win in Fiji makes Gaganjeet Bhullar the most successful Indian in Asian Tour history. It also opens the doors of the European Tour to him till 2019 end; the Australasian Tour till 2020-end and the Asian Tour till 2021-end   -  The Hindu

Gaganjeet Bhullar was surprised at being greeted by his ‘name’ when he landed in Nadi, Fiji, for the Fiji International. Surprise turned to amusement when he was told that “Bula” in Fijian means “Hello”.

Bhullar admitted that he began enjoying it. When he took the lead on the third day, “Bula”, “Bula” cheers went up. On Sunday, when he was trailing by one shot with two to play, he fed off those calls from a crowd comprising Indians and Fijians of Indian origin. And Bhullar was basking in that adulation.

He was 12-under at the 17th hole. Minutes earlier Aussie Anthony Quayle had eagled the 17th to seemingly jump from 12-under to 14-under. Bhullar thought he needed a birdie-birdie finish on the 17th and 18th to tie.

He produced a brilliant chip from 25 yards on the Par-5 17th as the ball ran all the way in. He soared from 12-under to 14-under. Just then Quayle’s scores were rectified when he turned in his card. The birdie he had been credited with on the ninth was actually a par. The record “10-under” round became a record “9-under” and the total became 13-under instead of 14-under and Bhullar was leading instead of trailing. Now, he only needed a par to win.

72nd hole

In the years to come, Bhullar’s 71st hole chip-in will be talked about in the same breath as Gaurav Ghei’s 72nd hole chip-in at the Gadgil Western Masters at the Delhi Golf Club in 1995.

Bhullar held his nerves and calmly landed his approach to within 10 feet of the pin with his second shot on the 18th. As his playing partners cleared the stage for him Bhullar rolled the first putt to within a foot and tapped it in for his first European Tour title.

The win makes him the most successful Indian in Asian Tour history and with immediate effect opens the doors to the European Tour till 2019 end; to the Australasian Tour till 2020-end and the Asian Tour till 2021-end. “This win will change many plans. I want to win the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Order of Merit; play more in Europe. I have been on the European Tour before in 2013 and 2014, but this time I will be better prepared and plan better,” said Bhullar.

He says, “I am more mature now and patient, too. I know my time will come.”

That small tap on the 72nd hole opened a door that he had been knocking on for weeks now. Of his five Top-10 finishes this season, three came in last four events. He has been runner-up twice. “I knew I was playing well and it was only a matter of time. I just wanted to find more and more fairways, more and more greens in regulation and I knew it (the win) would happen soon,” said Bhullar. Five years ago, Bhullar had been thwarted at the doorstep of victory at the Avantha Masters, co-sanctioned by Asian and European Tours in India in 2013. This time he was not to be denied.

“This is my ninth Asian Tour win and first on the European Tour. I think every one is special and I do have a feeling that after this, a lot of doors will open for me. I think this is something really special,” he said,

Bhullar opened with a steady 2-under 70 on the first day. He followed up with a calm 3-under 69 to get into the frame with other contenders. Yet he was a whopping five shots behind the leader, Kiwi Ben Campbell.

Then on the tough moving (third) day, the wind was up. But Bhullar seemed to be wearing anti-skid shoes as his 69 was the best alongside four others. But Campbell tripped badly with a 77.

Bhullar led, but only by one. “It’s anybody’s tournament,” he said. On Sunday, Bhullar began in electric fashion with three birdies in the first four holes, but Quayle, after a 2-under 34 for the front nine, was in a zone of his own on the back nine. Between the 11th and 17th, he had three birdies and two eagles and carded 9-under 63.

Though the trophy was slipping away, Bhullar was not rushed. The Golfing Gods were with him this day, as the score for Quayle was rectified but Bhullar got to know that only after he had chipped in for an eagle on 17th. Courage and mental calmness had finally paid off.

Bhullar instead of being behind, was actually ahead and he parred out for a well-deserved win.

“Ever since I landed here, I’ve been turning my neck all around the place as everybody kept saying, “Bula”, “Bula”. It sounded like my surname. It was a great feeling. Special thanks to all the fans; they all supported me this week. There was a big group of Indian families following me, especially on the back nine. The roar on the 17th really charged me up,” said Bhullar.

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Published on August 05, 2018
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